Scriptures

How To Study The Bible

Introduction

There are no hard-set rules when it comes to studying the Bible, but we need to remember this is God’s Word and we should approach as such. It’s God’s revelation to mankind in order for us to know who He is and what His will is for our lives.

There are some people who just open up a page of the Bible, close their eyes and point to a Scripture in the hope that God is saying something to them, but the dangers in this are obvious. Take for example a man opens his Bible, closes his eyes and ends up pointing to John 13:27 which reads,

‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’

Imagine the guy is then thinking,

what is it you want me to do God?

And so, he closes his eyes again, opens his Bible and points to Matthew 27:5 and reads,

‘Then he went away and hanged himself.’

I know that’s silly illustration but sadly some people are like this in their approach to Bible study.

The Bible

The Bible is an awesome book, it’s God’s love letter to mankind and it gives us answers to life’s deepest questions and practical wisdom for making everyday life work better. Yes, it’s a huge book and yes, I can me difficult to know where to begin.

But where else can we find these all-important questions about life and death, where we come from and where we could end up?

Prayer

I personally would begin with prayer. Don’t be afraid to ask God to help guide you through His Word, after all it is His Word, He is the author of it and it was written for our benefit.

‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Surely the Person who provided the Book knows how we can benefit from it!

God Himself tells us He wants to hear from us in prayer, and He wants us to grow in the knowledge, understanding and wisdom that come from studying His Holy Bible.

‘Pray continually.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

‘But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ 2 Peter 3:18

‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.’ 2 Timothy 2:15

When you pray, ask God for understanding. Ask for God’s help to search the Scriptures daily to find the answers you need, as the Bereans did.

‘Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.’ Acts 17:11

If anything, this will encourage you to commit to prayer and Bible study more regular.

We must come to the Bible, not to have our opinions confirmed, our prejudices reinforced, our pet issues endorsed, or our ‘proof texts’ approved, but to hear the voice of God and learn of his will for our life. We must have a spirit of obedience and submission to the authority of his word each time we read the Bible.

The attitude of the Psalmist is one we would do well to imitate.

‘Open my eyes,’ he says, ‘that I may see wonderful things in your law.’ Psalm 119:18

The psalmist is asking for enlightenment, for insight, for understanding; he is asking God to reveal His will.

But we must also exercise our mind through reflecting and meditating upon what God has said.

A blessing is pronounced upon the man whose,

‘delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night.’ Psalms 1:2

This man is engaged in prayerful reflection upon the word.

One of the struggles with Bible study is putting into practice what we learn.

How does God want us to approach the Bible?

It contains God’s thoughts and it allows us, in a sense, to read God’s mind! So, we should approach it humbly, with a teachable attitude.

Being teachable doesn’t just mean learning academic knowledge, it also means acting on what we learn. We must do what God says and obey His commands.

‘If you love me, keep my commands.’ John 14:15

‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.’ John 14:23-24

Keep the text in its context. Rudyard Kipling, once said,

‘I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); their names are, What and Why and When and How and Where and Who’

In approaching any book in the Bible, it is good to remember this little rhyme, because it will impress upon us the importance of first taking the basic questions; such as,

WHO was the writer? To WHOM was he writing? WHEN did he write? From WHERE did he write? WHAT did he write? And WHY did he write it?

God has revealed his will in the Scriptures with the obvious intention of being understood. So, when we read the Bible we need to know if we are reading historical narrative, poetry, psalms, prophecy, doctrine or an account of the life of Jesus. Furthermore, we need to appreciate the distinctive style of each writer and the cultural background against which he wrote.

There are ‘tools’ we can use to ensure that we arrive at a correct interpretation of the Scriptures. For example, if you were interpreting the epistles the following must be kept in mind.

1. To whom was the letter written?

2. What was the purpose of the letter?

3. How would the recipient of the letter have understood it?

4. What is the obvious meaning of the text?

5. What is the context of the text?

6. Is the text written with a particular culture in mind?

7. Is the interpretation in harmony with the rest of Scripture?

8. A text always means what the author intended it to mean.

There’s always a danger of reading meanings into a passage that don’t fit the context. Study all the passages about the subject, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, to gain a fuller picture. Use clear Scriptures to help you understand less clear Scriptures. And remember the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself.

Remember that the Bible, as it was originally written, doesn’t contradict itself. This can be helpful to keep in mind when studying apparent contradictions. Some can be easily cleared up by studying the context. Others can be resolved by studying relevant Bible resources that point out translation errors and ambiguities.

Find Someone To Study With

It’s always a blessing to sit with someone else who is more mature to study the Bible together. In this way you can share each other’s thoughts, learn together and grow together.

‘Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading? Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.’ Acts 8:30-31

Group Studies

Try and go along to a local Bible study. It’s no accident that Jesus taught on many occasions to the multitudes and even had some teaching time with His apostles alone. I think it’s very important but often overlooked that when the very first Christians were baptised, the first thing they did was sit at the apostle’s feet to learn.

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Acts 2:42

Where To Start?

Bible correspondence courses are a great place to start, most churches provide these free of charge and many can be done online. We’re more than happy to provide a variety of Free Bible correspondence courses by various authors for you to choose from, no doubt you’ll find some a little deeper than others but we’re confident that you will find them all very useful in helping you understand God a little more and the Bible as a whole.

We also offer some individual topical studies by various authors, with these, like the others, you can take your time and go through them one by one and more importantly at your own pace. Whenever you’re ready and you’ve completed one, just simply email your answers to us and we will gladly mark them accordingly and give you feedback on your answers. To request a Bible Correspondence Course, email us at info@the-scriptures.co.uk

Bible Study Aids

Your Bible can be your most important study tool. Translation isn’t an exact science, though, so comparing different Bible translations and other Bible study aids can help readers better understand the original meaning.

Just remember that there is no such thing as the perfect translation, all translations have their strengths and weakness. But chose one which will help you grow closer to God as you read. It’s always useful to read as many translations as you can, this way it will help your understanding of the text your reading.

It’s also important to understand the difference between a translation and a paraphrase. Some Bibles, such as the Living Bible, aren’t translations from the original languages, but are attempts to reword an English translation to simplify the language. While paraphrases can be helpful when reading some sections of Scripture, they aren’t reliable sources for careful doctrinal study.

Concordances are reference books that allow you to search for a specific English word throughout the Bible. They also allow you to identify the original Hebrew or Greek words that were translated into that English word. Concordances like Strong’s can give you a basic idea of the meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word. These are readily available online free of charge.

Bible dictionaries, lexicons and word study reference books can help in clarifying the definitions of the original words. Again, these are available online free of charge. Bible commentaries can provide historical, archaeological and textual background information, as well as various perspectives on a Bible passage. Compare commentaries with each other to see the range of opinions, but most of all, compare everything with the Scriptures.

Using these basic suggestions of how to study the Bible can help us more clearly understand what God wants to teach us about how to live, both now and forever.

Let us always approach Scripture with prayer, reverence and humility so that we can understand how to apply the principles taught therein.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Joshua 1:9

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